When Violet was born, I was vexed by the persistence of formula companies. I tossed the frequent mailings and coupons in the recycling. I returned the welcome gift that our pediatrician’s office gave me -- a formula gift pack, oddly bestowed upon me after they asked whether I was nursing and I said yes. I stuck the samples that arrived by mail in my closet, figuring I would pass them along to someone at some point. And now I’m writing this post, staring at those formula samples, which made their way from my closet to my desk last week.
Because I’ve been thinking about transitioning Violet to formula. And pretty much beating myself up about it. And from the number of moms I have talked to about this situation (one who confided that she wept the first time she fed her baby formula), I’m not the only one. Just yesterday, my friend Kristen posted about this very issue (which motivated me to finish this post…which has been in draft mode for a week).
I am committed to nursing. I nursed Laurel and Violet exclusively until exactly 6 months, then started introducing solids. I continued to nurse Laurel until she was just shy of 13 months. Violet will turn 9 months next week and I am still her exclusive milk source. I’m fortunate in that nursing actually is easy and convenient for me (Violet is a fast eater) but I also work and travel and despise pumping. I have hauled my pump through airport security several times while traveling for business. I even went to the trouble of searching for a mom in need when I went to Camp Mighty so I could pump and donate my liquid gold. And while I felt happy (and probably somewhat virtuous) for having done that, as I said goodbye to those 50 ounces, part of me was thinking, Sh*t, I wish I could take this home. Because by the time I get home my milk store will be almost empty.
And I need that milk store. I travel for work periodically and Violet goes to day care and it is stressful in and of itself to try to replace what Vi is consuming while at day care, much less banking extra for future travel. The other day, when my yield was low and I desperately started massaging (OK, vigorously squeezing) my breasts in an attempt to render more milk, I thought, This is insanity. I am so. over. this.
But my brain is stuck. I have had countless people (including Jon) tell me to get over it -– that I have given plenty. That I will continue to give plenty my whole life. And while intellectually, I know that this is true, I’m still struggling. With the idea of not giving to Violet the same as I did to Laurel. With the knowledge that Violet’s food source will become less pure if I start her on formula. With the dread of bracing myself for allergies or anything else in response to the formula. (Vi just recently recovered from a horrendous full body rash that I think was due to a mango allergy...and yes, one might point to the irony that I was feeding her organic mango that I steamed and pureed and froze into little nuggets myself.)
Health and bonding arguments aside, I wonder whether part of the formula stigma relates to semantics -- if incorporating formula would be easier if formula was simply called milk. Formula sounds so sterile and chemical, so cold and calculating and unsnuggly. But really, if Vi is drinking from a bottle, she will in fact be snuggled while she's being fed, whether it is breastmilk or formula.
Maybe formula should be called SnuggleMilk.
I was hoping that writing this out would help me feel resolved one way or the other. As it stands, the formula continues to sit on my desk, staring back at me. I don’t know if I will use it but I want it there as an option. One that I will not feel bad –- or be made to feel bad -- about. If I decide to transition to formula, I want to continue to be proud of and happy with the fact that I have grown Violet into a chubby, remarkably cheerful little person. And that I will feel confident that whether Violet drinks my breastmilk or SnuggleMilk (wow, I already feel much better just calling it that...), she will continue to grow and be loved and be awesome.